Need key info in a disaster? There isn’t an app for that, U of C researchers say

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CALGARY – Researchers at the University of Calgary say smartphone emergency apps don’t provide much of the information people need during a disaster.

Doctoral candidate Maleknaz Nayebi says Fort McMurray residents were flocking to social media during last May’s wildfire, but a lot of vital information was easily missed in the heavy online traffic.

Nayebi and her team developed software to analyze nearly 70,000 tweets sent during the thick of the disaster.

Using a program called MAPFEAT — which stands for Mining App Features from Tweets — the most common queries were matched up with features provided in 26 wildfire and emergency apps.

The researchers found only six of the top 40 concerns identified through MAPFEAT were addressed by existing apps and none in the top 10 were covered.

The research was presented at the International Conference on Software Engineering in Buenos Aires last month.

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